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Paul Sullivan: Brewers deserve praise for encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Other teams and athletes should follow their lead.
AP

Paul Sullivan: Brewers deserve praise for encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Other teams and athletes should follow their lead.

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Eustorgia Alcarav, 72, holds a sticker after she received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the American Airlines Conference at Wrigley Field on Monday, April 5, 2021.

Eustorgia Alcarav, 72, holds a sticker after she received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the American Airlines Conference at Wrigley Field on Monday, April 5, 2021.

CHICAGO — Outfielder Christian Yelich has been roundly booed during the Milwaukee Brewers’ first trip to Chicago with fans in the stands since 2019, and it makes perfect sense.

Now that longtime nemesis Ryan Braun is gone and Cubs fans are allowed back inside Wrigley Field, the bleacher bums needed someone on the Brewers to harass.

Yelich, the team’s best player, was the obvious heir apparent.

But Yelich and the rest of the Brewers deserve a round of applause for doing the right thing when it comes to promoting the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Yelich and a few of his teammates filmed a public service announcement Monday, in partnership with the city of Milwaukee, advising everyone to get vaccinated. It’s an idea that seems simple enough, like filming a PSA on respecting the fans sitting next to you in the ballpark.

But nothing is simple in this climate of mistrust and misinformation, so credit the Brewers for ignoring the skeptics and making the right call.

All across baseball, players are deciding whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Many Cubs players got vaccinated at Joe Maddon’s vacated restaurant next to Wrigley Field, which was open Tuesday for anyone who had scheduled an appointment.

Coincidentally, they had some leftover doses due to cancellations by the time I arrived for the Cubs-Brewers game. “Would you like to get the vaccine?” is not a question I was prepared for, especially after hearing horror stories of friends trying to schedule their shots.

I’d already had mine, but I watched a few other passersby walk in off Clark Street and excitedly accept the offer from an Advocate Aurora Health employee as if they had won the lottery.

It’s not mandatory for players to get the shot, just like it’s not mandatory for you or me. But unless you can’t get one because of a health issue or religious reason, it should be a no-brainer. And for MLB, 85% of a team’s Tier 1 employees — players and staff that are around the players — must be fully vaccinated to relax the COVID-19 protocols.

“It’s optional for us,” Cubs shortstop Javier Baez said Monday. “I decided to get it. We, my family and I, decided to get it. … A lot of people believe in it. A lot of people don’t believe in it. I think a lot of people should try it. Obviously we want the best for everybody.”

Outfielder Jason Heyward said last week he hadn’t gotten the shot yet and believes everyone should be able to “take as long as you want to decide when and how and where” to get one.

“I know a lot of people with kids have gotten them,” Heyward said. “I definitely understand that. But I also understand the people that haven’t. It’s definitely a personal choice. And by no means if someone doesn’t get it does that mean you’re not going to do everything you can in your power to be safe and keep others safe around you.

“I think that’ll just happen over time. The more people get the vaccine, the more comfortable they get the more they hear about it.”

Cubs President Jed Hoyer said the team would encourage players and staff to get their shots, but he added the Cubs can’t force anyone to do it. Still, athletes have the ability to sway the opinions of many fans, and it would behoove the Cubs to follow the Brewers’ lead and aid in the vaccination effort, for their own good and for the good of the community.

General manager David Stearns said Monday the Brewers “recognize that our players are role models” and “can serve as an example” for others.

“That’s a positive that’s going to benefit our entire community, and we’re very cognizant of that,” Stearns said. “Lastly, this benefits the game. The more players and people within our universe that we can get vaccinated, the more assurances that our games are going to go off without a hitch for the entirety of the season and the faster we get back to potentially full houses at American Family Field, which I know we’re all looking forward to and which will require a very determined vaccination effort on the part of our entire community.”

Yet some players aren’t joining in. New York Mets President Sandy Alderson said the team has had to create educational material for players, and he admitted “there has been some hesitation on the part of some players.”

“I think that’s in the best interest of the team, it’s in the best interest of their families, it’s in the best interest of those who work with the players,” Alderson said. “So I hope you know that in addition to their own personal medical considerations that they take all of those things into consideration as well.”

This really should not be controversial.

Players shouldn’t need to be “educated” on the issue now after spending seven weeks in spring training working on hitting the cutoff man and fielding bunts. Surely they all had a few minutes in February and March to listen to their team physicians explain the importance of getting vaccinated.

Fortunately, some players are stepping up and setting a good example. Cincinnati Reds reliever Sean Doolittle tweeted a photo of him and his wife, Eireann Dolan, after their first shot, writing: “We’re so lucky to have gotten our first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today!”

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer said: “For me, I tend to follow the science. I try to listen to what all the scientists say and what the experts say. So for me, I see the benefit of it; can’t wait to get it.”

Still, there are those like Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who tweeted: “I’ve received some questions and some requests regarding the vaccine. And for personal reasons and past experience I will not be taking it or advocating for it. I hope I don’t have to explain myself. And hope you all make the best decision for you and your family’s health.”

Thanks to closed clubhouses caused by the pandemic, Simmons won’t have to explain himself unless he volunteers to Zoom with the media.

According to USA Today, the only team that has verified it has reached the 85% threshold is the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps other teams have done so and don’t feel the need to announce it.

If so, that’s a shame. Teams should be high-fiving themselves for getting the job done and creating a safe and healthy working environment, not to mention easing COVID-19 protocols on the road.

Players have talked for almost a year about the need to get back to normalcy and how the return of baseball last summer helped get us back on that road.

We’re finally getting close to the finish line.

Don’t stop now.

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